73 Examples to Help You Master Python's f-strings

Featured on Hashnode

Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss my upcoming articles

In this post, I'll show you what I consider the most important bits about Python's f-strings. You will learn several different ways to format a string using f-strings, completely guided by examples. In total, you'll see 73 examples on how to make the best use of f-strings.

Table of Contents

  1. What Are Python's F-Strings - a.k.a Literal String Interpolation?
  2. Basic String Formatting With Python
  3. Limitations
  4. How to Format an Expression
  5. How to Use F-Strings to Debug Your Code
  6. How to Format Integers in Different Bases
  7. How to Print Objects With F-Strings
  8. How to Set Float Number Precision in a F-String
  9. How to Format a Number as Percentage
  10. How to Justify or Add Padding to a F-String
  11. How to Escape Characters
  12. How to Center a String
  13. How to Add a Thousand Separator

    13.1. How to Format a Number With Commas as Decimal Separator

    13.2. How to Format a Number With Spaces as Decimal Separator

  14. How to Format a Number in Scientific Notation (Exponential Notation)
  15. Using if-else Conditional in a F-String
  16. How to Use F-String With a Dictionary
  17. How to Concatenate F-Strings
  18. How to Format datetime Objects
  19. How to Fix F-String's Invalid Syntax Error
  20. How to Add Leading Zeros
  21. How to Write a Multi Line F-String (Dealing With New Lines)
  22. Conclusion

What Are Python's F-Strings - a.k.a Literal String Interpolation?

String formatting has evolved quite a bit in the history of Python. Before Python2.6, to format a string, one would either use the % operator, or string.Template module. Some time later, the str.format method came along and added to the language a more flexible and robust way of formatting a string.

Old string formatting with %:

>>> msg = 'hello world'
>>> 'msg: %s' % msg
'msg: hello world'

Using string.format:

>>> msg = 'hello world'
>>> 'msg: {}'.format(msg)
'msg: hello world'

To simplify formatting even further, in 2015, Eric Smith proposed the PEP 498 -- Literal String Interpolation .

PEP 498 presented this new string interpolation to be a simple and easy to use alternative to str.format. The only thing required was one more char - f"" - at the beginning of the string.

Using f-strings:

>>> msg = 'hello world'
>>> f'msg: {msg}'
'msg: hello world'

And that was it! No need to use str.format or %. However, f-strings don’t replace str.format completely. In this guide I’ll show you an example where they are not suitable.

Basic String Formatting With Python

As I have shown in the previous section, formatting a string using f-strings is quite straightforward. The sole requirement is to provide it a valid expression. f-strings can also start with capital F and you can combine with raw strings. However, you cannot mix them with bytes b"" or "u".

fig_5.png

>>> book = "The dog guide"

>>> num_pages = 124

>>> f"The book {book} has {num_pages} pages"
'The book The dog guide has 124 pages'

>>> F"The book {book} has {num_pages} pages"
'The book The dog guide has 124 pages'

>>> print(Fr"The book {book} has {num_pages} pages\n")
The book The dog guide has 124 pages\n

>>> print(FR"The book {book} has {num_pages} pages\n")
The book The dog guide has 124 pages\n

>>> print(f"The book {book} has {num_pages} pages\n")
The book The dog guide has 124 pages

And that's pretty much it! In the next section, I'll show you several examples of everything you can do - and cannot do - with f-strings.

Limitations

Even though f-strings are very convenient, they don't replace str.format completely. f-strings evaluate expressions in the context where they appear. According the the PEP 498 , this means the expression has full access to local and global variables. They're also an expression evaluated at runtime. If the expression used inside the { <expr> } cannot be evaluated, the interpreter will raise an exception.

>>> f"{name}"
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
NameError                                 Traceback (most recent call last)
<ipython-input-1-f0acc441190f> in <module>
----> 1 f"{name}"

NameError: name 'name' is not defined

This is not a problem for the str.format method, as you can define the template string and then call .format to pass on the context.

>>> s = "{name}"

>>> s.format(name="Python")
'Python'

>>> print(s)
{name}

Another limitation is that you cannot use inline comments inside a f-string.

>>> f"My name is {name #name}!"
  File "<ipython-input-37-0ae1738dd871>", line 1
    f"My name is {name #name}!"
    ^
SyntaxError: f-string expression part cannot include '#'

How to Format an Expression

If you don't want to define variables, you can use literals inside the brackets. Python will evaluate the expression and display the final result.

>>> f"4 * 4 is {4 * 4}"
'4 * 4 is 16'

Or if you prefer...

>>> n = 4

>>> f"4 * 4 is {n * n}"
'4 * 4 is 16'

How to Use F-Strings to Debug Your Code

One of most frequent usages of f-string is debugging. Before Python 3.8, many people would do hello = 42; f"hello = {hello}", but this is very repetitive. As a result, Python 3.8 brought a new feature. You can re-write that expression as f"{hello=}" and Python will display hello=42. The following example illustrates this using a function, but the principle is the same.

>>> def magic_number():
     ...:     return 42
     ...: 

>>> f"{magic_number() = }"
'magic_number() = 42'

How to Format Integers in Different Bases

fig_6.png

f-strings also allow you to display an integer in different bases. For example, you can display an int as binary without converting it by using the b option.

>>> f'{7:b}'
'111'

In summary, you can use f-strings to format:

  • int to binary
  • int to hex
  • int to octal
  • int to HEX (where all chars are capitalized)

The following example uses the padding feature and the base formatting to create a table that displays an int in other bases.

>>> bases = {
       "b": "bin", 
       "o": "oct", 
       "x": "hex", 
       "X": "HEX", 
       "d": "decimal"
}
>>> for n in range(1, 21):
     ...:     for base, desc in bases.items():
     ...:         print(f"{n:5{base}}", end=' ')
     ...:     print()

    1     1     1     1     1 
   10     2     2     2     2 
   11     3     3     3     3 
  100     4     4     4     4 
  101     5     5     5     5 
  110     6     6     6     6 
  111     7     7     7     7 
 1000    10     8     8     8 
 1001    11     9     9     9 
 1010    12     a     A    10 
 1011    13     b     B    11 
 1100    14     c     C    12 
 1101    15     d     D    13 
 1110    16     e     E    14 
 1111    17     f     F    15 
10000    20    10    10    16 
10001    21    11    11    17 
10010    22    12    12    18 
10011    23    13    13    19 
10100    24    14    14    20

How to Print Objects With F-Strings

You can print custom objects using f-strings. By default, when you pass an object instance to a f-string, it will display what the __str__ method returns. However, you can also use the explicit conversion flag to display the __repr__.

!r - converts the value to a string using repr().
!s - converts the value to a string using str().
>>> class Color:
    def __init__(self, r: float = 255, g: float = 255, b: float = 255):
        self.r = r
        self.g = g
        self.b = b

    def __str__(self) -> str:
        return "A RGB color"

    def __repr__(self) -> str:
        return f"Color(r={self.r}, g={self.g}, b={self.b})"

>>> c = Color(r=123, g=32, b=255)

# When no option is passed, the __str__ result is printed
>>> f"{c}"
'A RGB color'

# When `obj!r` is used, the __repr__ output is printed
>>> f"{c!r}"
'Color(r=123, g=32, b=255)'

# Same as the default
>>> f"{c!s}"
'A RGB color'

Python also allows us to control the formatting on a per-type basis through the __format__ method. The following example shows how you can do all of that.

>>> class Color:
    def __init__(self, r: float = 255, g: float = 255, b: float = 255):
        self.r = r
        self.g = g
        self.b = b

    def __str__(self) -> str:
        return "A RGB color"

    def __repr__(self) -> str:
        return f"Color(r={self.r}, g={self.g}, b={self.b})"

    def __format__(self, format_spec: str) -> str:
        if not format_spec or format_spec == "s":
            return str(self)

        if format_spec == "r":
            return repr(self)

        if format_spec == "v":
            return f"Color(r={self.r}, g={self.g}, b={self.b}) - A nice RGB thing."

        if format_spec == "vv":
            return (
                f"Color(r={self.r}, g={self.g}, b={self.b}) "
                f"- A more verbose nice RGB thing."
            )

        if format_spec == "vvv":
            return (
                f"Color(r={self.r}, g={self.g}, b={self.b}) "
                f"- A SUPER verbose nice RGB thing."
            )

        raise ValueError(
            f"Unknown format code '{format_spec}' " "for object of type 'Color'"
        )

>>> c = Color(r=123, g=32, b=255)

>>> f'{c:v}'
'Color(r=123, g=32, b=255) - A nice RGB thing.'

>>> f'{c:vv}'
'Color(r=123, g=32, b=255) - A more verbose nice RGB thing.'

>>> f'{c:vvv}'
'Color(r=123, g=32, b=255) - A SUPER verbose nice RGB thing.'

>>> f'{c}'
'A RGB color'

>>> f'{c:s}'
'A RGB color'

>>> f'{c:r}'
'Color(r=123, g=32, b=255)'

>>> f'{c:j}'
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
ValueError                                Traceback (most recent call last)
<ipython-input-20-1c0ee8dd74be> in <module>
----> 1 f'{c:j}'

<ipython-input-15-985c4992e957> in __format__(self, format_spec)
     29                 f"- A SUPER verbose nice RGB thing."
     30             )
---> 31         raise ValueError(
     32             f"Unknown format code '{format_spec}' " "for object of type 'Color'"
     33         )

ValueError: Unknown format code 'j' for object of type 'Color'

Lastly, there's also the a option that escapes non-ASCII chars. For more info: docs.python.org/3/library/functions.html#as..

>>> utf_str = "Áeiöu"

>>> f"{utf_str!a}"
"'\\xc1ei\\xf6u'"

How to Set Float Number Precision in a F-String

f-strings allow format float numbers similar to str.format method. To do that, you can add a : (colon) followed by a . (dot) and the number of decimal places with a f suffix.

For instance, you can round a float to 2 decimal places and print the variable just like this:

>>> num = 4.123956

>>> f"num rounded to 2 decimal palces = {num:.2f}"
'num rounded to 2 decimal palces = 4.12'

If you don't specify anything, the float variable will use the full precision.

>>> print(f'{num}')
4.123956

How to Format a Number as Percentage

Python f-strings have a very convenient way of formatting percentage. The rules are similar to float formatting, except that you append a % instead of f. It multiplies the number by 100 displaying it in a fixed format, followed by a percent sign. You can also specify the precision.

>>> total = 87

>>> true_pos = 34

>>> perc = true_pos / total

>>> perc
0.39080459770114945

>>> f"Percentage of true positive: {perc:%}"
'Percentage of true positive: 39.080460%'

>>> f"Percentage of true positive: {perc:.2%}"
'Percentage of true positive: 39.08%'

How to Justify or Add Padding to a F-String

You can justify a string quite easily using < or > characters.

how to justify or add padding to a string in python

>>> greetings = "hello"

>>> f"She says {greetings:>10}"
'She says      hello'

# Pad 10 char to the right
>>> f"{greetings:>10}"
'     hello'

>>> f"{greetings:<10}"
'hello     '

# You can omit the < for left padding
>>> f"{greetings:10}"
'hello     '

fig_2.png

>>> a = "1"

>>> b = "21"

>>> c = "321"

>>> d = "4321"

>>> print("\n".join((f"{a:>10}", f"{b:>10}", f"{c:>10}", f"{d:>10}")))
         1
        21
       321
      4321

How to Escape Characters

In case you want to display the variable name surrounded by the curly brackets instead of rendering its value, you can escape it using double {{<expr>}}.

>>> hello = "world"

>>> f"{{hello}} = {hello}"
'{hello} = world'

Now, if you want to escape a double quote, you can use the backslash \".

>>> f"{hello} = \"hello\""
'world = "hello"'

How to Center a String

fig_1.png

Centering a string can be achieved by using var:^N where var is a variable you want to display and N is the string length. If N is shorter than the var, then Python display the whole string.

>>> hello = "world"

>>> f"{hello:^11}"
'   world   '

>>> f"{hello:*^11}"
'***world***'

# Extra padding is added to the right
>>> f"{hello:*^10}"
'**world***'

# N shorter than len(hello)
>>> f"{hello:^2}"
'world'

How To Add a Thousand Separator

fig_4.png

f-strings also allow us to customize numbers. One common operation is to add an underscore to separate every thousand place.

>>> big_num = 1234567890

>>> f"{big_num:_}"
'1_234_567_890'

How to Format a Number With Commas as Decimal Separator

In fact, you can use any char as separator. It’s also possible to use a comma as separator.

>>> big_num = 1234567890

>>> f"{big_num:,}"
'1,234,567,890'

You can also format a float with commas and set the precision in one go.

>>> num = 2343552.6516251625

>>> f"{num:,.3f}"
'2,343,552.652'

How to Format a Number With Spaces as Decimal Separator

What about using spaces instead?

Well, this one is a bit “hacky” but it works. You can use the , as separator, then replace it with space.

>>> big_num = 1234567890

>>> f"{big_num:,}".replace(',', ' ')
'1 234 567 890'

Another option is to set the locale of your environment to one that uses spaces as a thousand separator such as pl_PL. For more info, see this thread on stack overflow.

How to Format a Number in Scientific Notation (Exponential Notation)

Formatting a number in scientific notation is possible with the e or E option.

>>> num = 2343552.6516251625

>>> f"{num:e}"
'2.343553e+06'

>>> f"{num:E}"
'2.343553E+06'

>>> f"{num:.2e}"
'2.34e+06'

>>> f"{num:.4E}"
'2.3436E+06'

Using if-else Conditional in a F-String

f-strings also evaluates more complex expressions such as inline if/else.

>>> a = "this is a"

>>> b = "this is b"

>>> f"{a if 10 > 5 else b}"
'this is a'

>>> f"{a if 10 < 5 else b}"
'this is b'

How to Use F-String With a Dictionary

You can use dictionaries in a f-string. The only requirement is to use a different quotation mark than the one enclosing the expression.

>>> color = {"R": 123, "G": 145, "B": 255}

>>> f"{color['R']}"
'123'

>>> f'{color["R"]}'
''123'

>>> f"RGB = ({color['R']}, {color['G']}, {color['B']})"
'RGB = (123, 145, 255)'

How to Concatenate F-Strings

Concatenating f-strings is like concatenating regular strings, you can do that implicitly, or explicitly by applying the + operator or using str.join method.

# Implicit string concatenation
>>> f"{123}" " = " f"{100}" " + " f"{20}" " + " f"{3}"
'123 = 100 + 20 + 3'

# Explicity concatenation using '+' operator
>>> f"{12}" + " != " + f"{13}"
'12 != 13'

# string concatenation using `str.join`
>>> " ".join((f"{13}", f"{45}"))
'13 45'

>>> "#".join((f"{13}", f"{45}"))
'13#45'

How to Format datetime Objects

f-strings also support the formatting of datetime objects. The process is very similar to how str.format formats dates. For more info about the supported formats, check this table in the official docs.

fig_7.png

>>> import datetime

>>> now = datetime.datetime.now()

>>> ten_days_ago = now - datetime.timedelta(days=10)

>>> f'{ten_days_ago:%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S}'
'2020-10-13 20:24:17'

>>> f'{now:%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S}'
'2020-10-23 20:24:17'

How to Fix F-String's Invalid Syntax Error

If not used correctly, f-strings can raise a SyntaxError. The most common cause is using double-quotes inside a double quoted f-string. The same is also true for single quotes.

>>> color = {"R": 123, "G": 145, "B": 255}

>>> f"{color["R"]}"
  File "<ipython-input-43-1a7f5d512400>", line 1
    f"{color["R"]}"
    ^
SyntaxError: f-string: unmatched '['


>>> f'{color['R']}'
  File "<ipython-input-44-3499a4e3120c>", line 1
    f'{color['R']}'
    ^
SyntaxError: f-string: unmatched '['

Another common case is to use f-strings in older versions of Python. f-strings were introduced in Python 3.6. If you use it in an older version, the interpreter will raise a SyntaxError: invalid syntax.

>>> f"this is an old version"
  File "<stdin>", line 1
    f"this is an old version"
                            ^
SyntaxError: invalid syntax

If you see invalid syntax, make sure to double check the Python version you are running. In my case, I tested in on Python 2.7, and you can find the version by calling sys.version.

>>> import sys; print(sys.version)
2.7.18 (default, Apr 20 2020, 19:27:10) 
[GCC 8.3.0]

How to Add Leading Zeros

You can add leading zeros by adding using the format {expr:0len} where len is the length of the returned string. You can include a sign option. In this instance, + means the sign should be used for positive and negative numbers. The - is used only for negative numbers, which is the default behavior. For more info, check the string format specification page .

>>> num = 42

>>> f"{num:05}"
'00042'

>>> f'{num:+010}'
'+000000042'

>>> f'{num:-010}'
'0000000042'

>>> f"{num:010}"
'0000000042'

>>> num = -42

>>> f'{num:+010}'
'-000000042'

>>> f'{num:010}'
'-000000042'

>>> f'{num:-010}'
'-000000042'

How to Write a Multi Line F-String (Dealing with New Lines)

You can use the newline character \n with f-strings to print a string in multiple lines.

>>> multi_line = (f'R: {color["R"]}\nG: {color["G"]}\nB: {color["B"
    ...: ]}\n')

>>> multi_line
'R: 123\nG: 145\nB: 255\n'

>>> print(multi_line)
R: 123
G: 145
B: 255

As an alternative, you can use triple quotes to represent the multi-line string. It not only allows you to add line breaks, it’s also possible to add TAB.

>>> other = f"""R: {color["R"]}
    ...: G: {color["G"]}
    ...: B: {color["B"]}
    ...: """

>>> print(other)
R: 123
G: 145
B: 255

Example with TABs.

>>> other = f'''
    ...: this is an example
    ...: 
    ...: ^Iof color {color["R"]}
    ...:     
    ...: '''

>>> other
'\nthis is an example\n\n\tof color 123\n    \n'

>>> print(other)

this is an example

    of color 123



>>>

Conclusion

That’s it for today, folks! I hope you’ve learned something different and useful. Knowing how to make the most out of f-string can make our lives so much easier. In this post, I showed the most common tricks I use in a day-to-day basis. If you liked this post, consider sharing it with your friends! Also, feel free to follow me miguendes.me.

Other posts you may like:

See you next time!

Paula Maranhão's photo

So much stuff you can do! I'll certainly take notes of them all. Thanks for the great content.

Martin Bless's photo

Wow, thanks for the plethora of examples. One thing I'm missing: What about "nested" variable substitution like

>>>b = 15
>>>c = 5
>>>f"{2/3:{b}.{c}}"
'        0.66667'

Maybe you would like to explore and think that through as well? That would make your blog post perfect for me.

Miguel Brito's photo

Hi Martin Bless, yes, indeed. I was aware of that and completely forgot to mention it in the article. Thanks for the suggestion!

Andrew Baisden's photo

Whoa so detailed with many examples definitely going to revisit this.

kakhaber tsito's photo

Thanks

Vivek Tiwari's photo

Wow, that's a great list, Miguel Brito. Bookmarked! 👏